17% headline growth in operating profit despite a £9.6m foreign exchange headwind
Sector leading conversion rate up 210bps to 21.5%, back above 20% for the first time since 2009
Excellent like-for-like profit growth of £33.1m from like-for-like net fee growth of £65.1m, a 51% drop-through
Further strong, broad-based net fee growth in UK & Ireland
- Net fees up 11%(1), or £26.5m(1), generating £19.6m(1) operating profit improvement; a 74% drop-through
Asia Pacific net fees up 8%(1), driven by return to growth in Australia and continued strength in Asia
- Australia net fees up 7%(1), led by strong Perm growth
- Strong 13%(1) net fee growth in Asia, driving record profit performance
Continental Europe & Rest of World good net fee growth of 9%(1) and excellent operating profit growth of 18%(1)
- Good growth in key businesses with net fees in Germany up 6%(1); France and Canada both up 10%(1)
- 16 countries delivered net fee growth of 10%(1) or more, including Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and US
Consultant headcount up 9%(4), as we invested on a targeted basis to support growth opportunities
Strong cash performance, with 116% conversion of operating profit into operating cash flow, and net debt reduced by £32m to £31m despite the £36m spend in relation to the acquisition of Veredus in the US
Strong growth in EPS of 21%, reflecting strong operating profit performance and lower effective tax rate
Full year dividend increased 5%, in line with our strategy to build full year cover towards 3.0x earnings
Commenting on the results Alistair Cox, Chief Executive, said:
"This is another strong financial performance as we delivered excellent 25%(1) operating profit growth and further increased our sector leading conversion rate. All three divisions delivered good growth and we are on schedule to deliver our five-year aspiration to broadly double the Group's operating profits by 2018, despite the material negative impact of foreign exchange movements.
In the UK we delivered excellent profit leverage and strong fee growth across all regions. Our Australia business returned to growth, driven by Perm, though the mining-focused regions remained tough. In Germany, our trading performance was good and around the rest of the Group, we continued to deliver good broad-based growth as 21 countries delivered net fee growth of 10%(1) or more.
We have made further significant strategic and operational progress this year, building on the existing strength of our business globally. We acquired Veredus in the US, giving us a significant platform from which to build a large business in the world's biggest recruitment market, and continued the rollout of our contractor model.
We enter our new year in a position of strength, with unrivalled breadth, scale and balance around the world and the best people and technology tools in our industry. We see many clear opportunities to grow further and are focused on capturing these while simultaneously driving profits and cash generation along the way. That combination of delivering short-term results and investing to capitalise on long-term opportunity is unique in our industry today."